If you are like many that exercise you might perform generally the same workout from week to week.
This is OK, but you may notice that your workout just doesn’t feel the same each week, sometimes it might be harder, sometimes it might be easier. Whether you are aware of it or not your exercise intensity often varies from workout to workout. You might notice sometimes you just feel like working out more than others and on these days not only can you do more, workout longer but are also stronger, other days it might be exactly the opposite. You can dramatically improve your results by trying to regulate your workout intensity to a fairly consistent level.
The arguments about what type of intensity is best for producing results are endless. What I would tell you is that I subscribe to the philosophy that trying to maintain high relative intensity in every workout will generally provide the best results. Here is a visual description of intensity that was provided to me at a recent certification that may help you to better understand what high relative intensity means.
Imagine yourself and two friends are standing in front of three targets. Each of you is given five darts to throw at the targets and the only condition is that you must throw all five darts in four seconds.
As your first friend throws the darts at the target they do so hurriedly, just trying to make sure they are able to complete the task. The result is that two darts miss the target altogether while the other three are at various positions on the target.
Your next friend much more comfortable executes the task and the result is pretty spectacular, they achieve a tight grouping of five darts near the centre of the target. Now not to be outperformed you do your best to achieve a similar result to our second participant. Your result is that all five darts are on the target, three are in the proximity of the centre and the other two are at random points but still on the target. You would be completing this activity at high relative intensity, let me explain further.
The first participant had a very random result with not much, if any, conceivable consistency. This would indicate they were performing beyond their ability. We might label this as high or maximum intensity. And when it comes to exercise, just as though you were standing next to the target, this may be very dangerous. Without consistency through a proper range of motion it is almost inevitable you will become injured even with light weights or if you initially feel good performing the exercise. Let’s move on to our second participant.
Our second participant was very accurate and achieved what we might think is an optimal training result, but in truth because of the high degree of accuracy and a predictable measure of consistency it is evident that this individual could still push themselves further if they are trying to achieve progress or even better performance. If we are to associate this to weight loss or fitness it’s kind of like spinning your wheels while stuck in the mud. It might seem like you are working out a lot but there isn’t much change occurring because you are not pushing the limits of what you can complete consistently in order for adaptation to occur. For continual progress you need to provide a different or more difficult stimulus than last time.
Finally you, our third participant, your results were not optimal for accuracy but you might say “you were in the ball park.” If you had more time, you may have been more accurate but your result was nearing your threshold of your ability. If I were standing beside the target, I was probably reasonably safe.
In your exercise program this is what we are looking for: execution of every exercise within safe parameters and almost, but not quite perfect. It’s by pushing these personal limits each time within a safe margin that stimulates all the great factors of progress: hormonal response, muscular adaptation, nervous adaptation, etc. Don’t be afraid of intensity, it may be hard but it is worth it.
Cabel McElderry is a local personal trainer and nutrition coach. For more information on fitness and nutrition, visit the Fitness F/X website at www.fitnessfx.com.